How hyperlocals can use live streaming smartphone apps

By Peter Stewart | 26th May 2015

Overview

Periscope (and Meerkat, like their predecessors Stringwire, UStream, Bambuser) are apps which allow you to stream live video directly from your smartphone. They are evolving all the time, and in fact Periscope have just announced that an Android version of the app is available.

But what do they allow you to do? Instead of having to record a video, your followers can actually be watching you live – meaning you can share breaking news or live events as they happen to lots of people at the same time, and get their reaction.

With Periscope (which is owned by, and channelled through Twitter) people can ‘like’ what they see (by tapping their screen to send you a heart icon) and comment on what you are showing or saying, and interact with you in real time, by sending you a written message which also appears on the screen.

The video streams are live, and as a presenter you have the option to:

  • Have them automatically uploaded to Periscope’s servers, where they can be viewed for just 24 hours before they are automatically deleted.
  • Save them to your phone’s camera roll, from where you can:
  • Edit them
  • Upload them to YouTube
  • Embed them in your own website.

With Periscope you can immediately be your own live TV station, broadcasting from whereever you are. News and content will never be the same.

Possible uses of live streaming for hyperlocal news teams

There are of course lots of people using Periscope for fun, but on a professional basis there are many potential uses for live streaming for news reporters (as well as community groups, sports clubs, councils, music venues, restaurants, celebrities, small businesses …. In fact almost anyone).

Twitter-owned live streaming app, Periscope

Twitter-owned live streaming app, Periscope

As I write this, the Periscope app is less than two months old (it was made available for iOS devices on launched March 26th 2015), but since then I have watched a few hundred broadcasts, and read just as many blogs and reviews, to try and determine what makes a good ‘Scope’ and how to inspire people to take advantage of this ground-breaking app. Together with my experience in live broadcasting, production, reporting and social media (I have written several books on these topics) I am perhaps uniquely placed to spot the opportunities which are now available to us.

Now I have come up with the following ideas to make live-streaming work for you. Here are just a few for journalists at hyperlocal news groups.

Scheduled events

  • News conferences and openings – perhaps the events that the national or regional media won’t report. If you are there to get an interview with one of the speakers after the event, why not stream the entire thing to democratise your coverage? Invite your followers to send you questions or observations about what’s happening, that you can put to interviewees later.
  • At a council meeting – ask permission before you stream from inside a meeting (and remember the limitations of the iPhone microphone), but what about interviewing councillors before or after the event, or get the strength of feeling from people arriving to sit in the public gallery?
  • Conferences, trade shows, charity events – interview the speakers, the participants and those attending. Get them to give you product demonstrations and answer FAQs sent in by viewers on the screen.
  • Fairs, fetes and football matches – there’s a big fun day in the town? You could stream several reporters through the day, walking past the stalls, interviewing some of the visitors, maybe a view from the top of the big wheel…? And if you have a few colleagues all with access to the app, you could triple your coverage (“in a few moments we’ll join Suzie at the dog agility course, at half-past Mike is talking to the judges at the cake stall, and at quarter to I’ll be back with the Mayor herself…”)

Breaking news 

  • En route to a story – if someone else is driving, you can stream your journey to the scene of a breaking event. Your viewers can see you get the latest information and start writing your report, work your way through potential road diversions, talk to police at the scene, and find people to interview.
  • At the story – professional reporters have used the app to ‘rehearse’ eye-witnesses while the camera crew is setting up. They have shown the inside of the sat-truck and how the gear is used. And, while waiting for their slot on broadcast TV or radio, they’ve given their stream-viewers (the station’s die-hard fans) the exclusive latest information on what’s happened.
  • For stories that happen when the ‘broadcast’ show is off air – reporters for NBC4 Los Angeles used Periscope to show a police car chase. You could even, with a bit of work, produce and present hyperlocal news bulletins on Periscope: reading to camera (err, phone!) and then taking comments afterwards.

Interviews 

  • Full interviews – Most interviews on TV or radio are not live, they are pre-recorded and edited with the very best material used. Sometimes only a 10 second soundbite is taken from a 10 minute interview. Pro-reporters are using Periscope to show the full interview as it is recorded.
  • Showbiz interviews – the big star has come to town. Yes you the reporter have lots of questions, but maybe your viewers have some great ones too. Stream the interview live and get them to post their questions on the screen for the celeb to answer straightaway. When they look at the camera and address their fan by name and answer their question, a bond is created because of your stream.

Behind the scenes

  • So often, reporters get to go to places where the public can’t. – Now you can show them that view from behind the stage at the concert hall, or the chairman’s box at the pitch, or the call centre at the police HQ. Have a walkthrough so your viewers feel as though they are there and involved. Sky News, one of the broadcasters hosting the Battle for No 10 programme, used Periscope to give a behind-the-scenes look: Joe Tidy livestreamed the view from behind the camera and walked around the ‘spin room’, where journalists and broadcasters were analysing the night’s events. He also used the chat and ‘love heart’ functions to encourage the 200 viewers to post questions, comments and reactions, keeping them engaged. For a local site, you could have a weekly Periscope showing people inside and around different places: from the top of the church spire, inside the fire control centre, from a police car …
  • Or maybe you can get somewhere where the public is allowed to go, but rarely does: What is the view from the worst seat in the house at the local theatre? From a tractor cab while ploughing… One police force showed what it was like to be in one of their cells and got viewers to direct where the camera-person should go and show.

Added value

  • Explainers – ‘The Economist’ used a live-stream to explain UK deflation with their economics correspondent answering questions sent in by readers on Twitter. You could have the local council leader on to talk about budget issues, and address the audience and answer their questions. At a time when people are less inclined to turn up to public meetings, this app allows them to take part and engage from the comfort of their own armchair.

As a source for news 

  • Talking directly to an audience – Fed up with not getting their point of view across, or press releases not being reported by the mainstream media, many companies, councils and sports teams may start using Periscope to get their messages out. They will be able to talk directly to people instead of going through a third party. A council could refute political accusations with a live stream after telling local media to tune in. A sports team could announce their new signing live … showing the star being taken around their dressing room and putting their name on the dotted line on the contract. Reporters may have to follow these streams to find out what’s going on.

Now let’s merge some of those ideas to create an outline for a Periscope for Blankstown:

  • ‘Blankstown TV’ could be on every Tuesday night at 8 (regularity helps increase engagement).
  • Each show is about 20 minutes long and after it has been shown live, is available for 24 hours on Periscope. After that the team upload it to YouTube and use the embed code to also have it on their own website (one of the team does some basic editing before this happens).
  • The first Tuesday of the month usually has one or two members of the team read out some local news items and then invite comments on the stories and suggestions for future stories.
  • The second Tuesday features a live interview – maybe a local politician, dignitary, school head or religious person.
  • The third Tuesday sees the team ‘behind the scenes’ at a local shop or business
  • The fourth Tuesday has an interview with a local person with an unusual job or hobby, a charity worker
  • In amongst that, there is the opportunity to come live from local events: the carol service, village fair, duck race, balloon fiesta …
  • And also to present ad-hoc reports during the day: tailbacks on the Blankstown bypass after a traffic light failure when a colleague walks beside the queue of cars for a mile, the protest at the university over pay, the demolition work starting on the local eyesore, the workers finally relaying the potholed high street….

Potential Issues:

Copyright issues

  • Consider sports/football matches: broadcasters have paid for rights, but lower league clubs may welcome the coverage – although a stream video will be distant and poor, without a commentary, and be a drain on battery and data.
  • Certainly it is illegal to stream a movie as you watch it (although quite who would want to watch 90 minutes of a film out of focus, in portrait rather than landscape and with poor sound..?)
  • Similarly, live streaming a concert performance potentially infringes in the copyrights of multiple parties, including the artist, the label, and the publisher. And the same goes for including music in your stream, even if it was incidental. So probably no ‘record reviews’, school plays… and if you film inside say a shopping centre, and the background piped music is heard, you could get into trouble.
  • Oh and be careful about the use of copyrighted logos or artwork too (it’s not just music and moving pictures that are copyrighted).

Privacy

  • If someone is in a public place, like the street, the beach or a conference they have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Someone can take their picture, record or stream video of their activities and movements in public, and they wouldn’t have much legal basis to complain about it. But remember what you may think as a public area, may in fact be private property: the bus is owned by a private company, an open space may be owned by a farmer, a shopping centre is not the same as a high street. Are you OK to film there?
  • A general view of a beach may be one thing. Showing semi-naked sunbathers, particularly if they are children, is another. Gratuitously showing nakedness, abuse etc is obviously not allowed on these services.
  • Remember some people simply do not want to be filmed. So at an event, ask people beforehand if they would be OK with you approaching them for a live interview rather than springing it on them while you are on air. Make sure your general streaming is obvious: you probably don’t need a release form, but some kind of branded shirt may be enough.
  • Children. It’s obvious not to show them without their parent’s express permission. Avoid capturing them in a general shot.

Security issues

  • You may be in a crowded place holding out your phone in front of you, thinking what to say next and trying to read the on-screen comments. It’s very possible that this is seen as an ‘open invitation’ for someone to rush by and simply take your phone from your grasp. Consider a ‘minder’ in these situations.

Defamation and contempt issues

  • Presenters (or viewers in their comments) who have no legal awareness, making slanderous remarks about people or products …or giving their views about ongoing court cases, or breaking other legal issues such as naming children or sex abuse victims.

Read Periscope App T+C’s: ow.ly/LdSc3 & Community Guidelines: ow.ly/LdSja

Update 

BBC Academy Trainer, Marc Blank-Settle, has also warned of the dangers of an unplanned phone call taking you off air mid-stream. Here’s his advice on how to avoid it:

In conclusion

Reporters are always looking for any tool that will help them tell stories in more immediate and immersive ways. And Periscope has already encouraged many, and converted some, to become a broadcaster without expensive equipment.

There are some potential pitfalls but also some huge opportunities – especially at the moment when the app is relatively new. You can find your own niche and make your mistakes with few people watching, and start learning ‘on the job’.

People are already finding great new ways to use Periscope: some link it with Skype-type services so they can have on-screen contributions from people in other locations, all in vision, all in quality. Other people do phone-ins, by setting up a Skype-type number through their computer and running the callers’ voice through Periscope to allow for direct audio conversations… These are weird ‘mashups’ of TV, radio, mobile technology that seem to work and make better connections with people. The advantage for hyperlocal news teams is obvious: for example a phone in with the local councillor about bin collections, or the felling of trees in the local park. They can’t get to your home for the stream (or maybe you don’t want them there…), that’s fine: they can link in from their office, and talk to their PC webcam, and your viewers watch them on their mobile phones (!)

Like most apps, Periscope doesn’t come with a manual of what to do. The basic operation is of course intuitive, but there are lots of tricks to learn to make the most of it and help make your presentation as professional as possible. The best resource I have come across is the ebook (150 pages!) by a group of people who call themselves Up Your Periscope. They have a Twitter feed (@UpYourPeriscope, with daily tips and help) and website (www.UpYourPeriscope.guru through which you can buy the book).

Author:

Peter Stewart – April 2015. Peter is a radio presenter and journalist of 25 years’experience. He’s trained broadcasters in the UK and abroad via face-to-face seminars and through his several published books. He is a ‘go-to guru’ on social-media (specifically twitter), and Periscope. You can follow him on both platforms @TweeterStewart.

Have you tried using Periscope, Meerkat or any other live streaming apps? Let us know @C4CJ.

Homepage image accompanying this article is copyright Anthony Quintano.

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